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31 Dec 1971 & 23 Aug 1995

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA

 Tina Suzanne Biggar was born in South Dakota on Dec. 31, 1971, the daughter of Bill Biggar a Coast Guard commander and Connie a registered nurse.

“Tina Biggar is 5-foot-7, weighs 145 pounds and has blonde hair and brown eyes. She wears glasses or contact lenses. Anyone who may have seen Biggar or may have any information as to her whereabouts should contact the OU Police at (810) 370-3331. Her family has offered a $5,000 reward for information.”


Tina Suzanne Biggar

Tina Suzanna Biggar_edited.jpg

Sadly, the Biggars first learned about the positive ID of Tina’s body from a TV report.

Biggar’s body was found Thursday, Sept. 21, by Southfield police near 9 Mile Road. Her body was behind a home owned by Tranchida’s aunt.

The following Monday, a vigil was held in her memory outside Pyrale Hall. No faculty from the Psychology Department made an appearance, but 100 students, staff and faculty came together. Her family planned to bury her body in South Dakota in a plot next to her brother, who had died in infancy.


A Detroit Free Press clip shows Todd Nurnberger, Tina’s friend Aimee

Vermeersch, and Bill Biggar attending a vigil

She was 23 years old and studying psychology at Oakland University when she went missing on Aug. 24. She had moved in with her boyfriend, Tom Nurnberger, just a few days prior. He said she had poor eyesight, and he suspected foul play upon realizing her glasses were left at home before her disappearance.

“I think that she is dead or that she is kidnapped,” said Julie Biggar, Tina’s sister. “I keep thinking ‘Silence of the Lambs.'”

The last reported sighting of Biggar was Aug. 23, by an individual who claimed she was with a man named Ken Tranchida, an ex-con whom she befriended.

“As far as we know, (Tranchida) was the last person seen with her, but he’s not charged with anything so we can’t restrict him in any way,” said Sgt. Doug Anderson of the Farmington Hills Police.

What made her disappearance all the more worrying was that she was part of a research group studying the AIDS epidemic in female sex workers.

She was one of eight students at Oakland working on interviewing women about their knowledge of the HIV virus and AIDS. Then, Wayne State University students would have the sex workers go through an education program on HIV and AIDS, after which the OU students would follow up and analyze the subjects’ retention of the information. 

The subjects were all in jail for their engagement in sex work, and the Dickerson Detention Center in Hamtramck had personnel constantly supervising the students.

“[Biggar] put her all in this study,” said Aimee VerMeersch, Biggar’s good friend and co-worker.

Following The Oakland Post’s coverage, major news outlets in Metro Detroit came out and wrote follow-ups, and many of these reports speculated that Biggar had been involved with the sex worker population.

One day before her disappearance, Biggar had filed an application for permission to conduct a study titled “Survey of sexual history and health practices among women employed as escorts.” Professors Alega Harrison and Robert Stewart were listed as faculty sponsors, though Stewart never signed the document.

There was at least three alleged sightings of Biggar in Windsor, and a warrant was put out for Tranchida’s arrest.

Drifter Charged in Slaying of Woman Doing Research on Prostitutes

YURI KAGEYAMA September 29, 1995

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (AP) _ A drifter accused of killing a college student he met through her research project on prostitution told police he wanted ``to put her out of her misery″ from mounting money troubles.

At his arraignment Thursday, Kenneth Tranchida declared, ``I’m guilty.″ But no plea was entered, and Judge Stephen Cooper urged him to speak to a lawyer. Tranchida, 41, was jailed without bail after he was arrested Tuesday and charged with first-degree murder. He could get life in prison without parole if convicted.

Tina Biggar, a 23-year-old undergraduate psychology student at Oakland University in Michigan, was working on a research project on prostitutes and AIDS when she disappeared on Aug. 23. The project was funded by the government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Her body was found Sept. 21 in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, behind a house where one of Tranchida’s relatives once lived, police said.

Biggar’s car was found in Tranchida’s possession, police said, and tests found her blood in the trunk. An autopsy showed she died of blows to the head and neck.

Authorities believe she was killed the day she disappeared.


``The one reason he gave was that she was complaining about her financial woes,″ Assistant Prosecutor Gary Tunis said. ``She needed money, so he wanted to put her out of her misery.″

Police said Biggar had interviewed prostitutes in prison and on the streets for the project and had gone to work for an escort service, where she met Tranchida, who was a customer.


William Dwyer, the police chief in Farmington Hills, where Biggar lived, wouldn’t say what Biggar did at the service or elaborate on the nature of her relationship with Tranchida. He has served time for breaking and entering and was a habitual criminal.


Biggar had transferred to Oakland University from South Dakota State University to be closer to her parents. Her father is commander of the Coast Guard’s Traverse City station.


The family felt the court handled the case well but had no warm words for the media. Bill Biggar said journalists profit by others’ pain. “Put your name in the headlines,” he said to reporters. “Put your daughter’s and son’s names in the headlines. The sustaining hurt is right here.”



Deadly Knowledge refers to episode 19 of the Season 5 of the television series Forensic Files which was broadcast for the first time on January 16, 2001.

Plot summary

In 1995 in Farmington Hills, Michigan when 23-year-old college co-ed Tina Biggar goes missing, her boyfriend and family fear that she has been murdered. A police investigation reveals details about her past that no one, not even her closest friends, suspected: She was a student by day and a $100-an-hour call-girl by night.

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